Kirk Whalum Blog



October 03, 2011


The @Morehouse College Glee Club Is 100 -The Record:@NPR

LISTEN TO STORY.mp3

 

On Sunday night, 60 tuxedoed young African-American men will briskly walk down the aisles, onto the stage of New York's Lincoln Center and launch into a Norwegian folk song. It's the Morehouse College Glee Club, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary Sunday.


From their arresting entrance, the club's concerts are marked by energy and dynamic subtleties. Their programs include classical choral music, barbershop quartet, spirituals, arrangements and — always — "Betelehemu," the Nigerian carol they perform at every full concert. When they do that song, some of the singers come off stage shouting into the audience while African drums play at center stage, in front of the chorus. It's their show stopper. The Morehouse Glee Club has been singing "Betelehemu" for more than 50 years.


Morehouse College was founded in Atlanta in 1867, and it remains the only all-male historically black college in the nation. Almost from the beginning, the Glee Club members have been the school's official performing ambassadors. The club has earned an international reputation through its annual tours and has traveled through Europe, Africa and the Caribbean.


The Glee Club is known for its focused stage presence, musical precision, wide-ranging repertoire, distinguished alumni and its recording of "I'm Building Me A Home," which Morehouse alumn Spike Lee recorded for the opening credits of his 1988 film School Daze.


Thousands of students have come through the Glee Club. I sang bass when I was a student there. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a tenor in the club, and in 1968 the group sang for him at his funeral. Singing at a brother's memorial is a longstanding Glee Club tradition -– we call it closing ranks. The traditions are taken very seriously.


David Morrow, the Glee Club's current director, is only the third in the group's 100-year history. He took over when his teacher Wendall Whalum -– who had been there for 34 years –- passed away in 1987. Dr. Morrow says that the club's strength has been its continuity.Read the rest of the story at www.npr.org


Read the rest of the story at www.npr.org

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